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Grizzly Mama

There's a Grizzly who has escaped the City of Brotherly Love..(and she's going back to homeschooling!!)

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Location: Out of Philly, Pennsylvania, United States

"All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth." Aristotle - Greek Philosopher.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Public School Education

I went to public school. I have been struggling to separate the values that I learned in school vs. the values that I was taught at home. In most, those values were reinforced in both places but especially in K through about 8th grade.

I was raised Catholic, 7th out of 8 kids. My mother stayed home. There is no denying the influence of the Catholic Church in my life. By the time my parents got to the 5th kid, having all kids in Catholic school was just too much money I guess so the younger started out in public school. I split with the Catholic Church for many years but within the last decade or so I have called an uneasy truce with the Church. Troll and I wavered over putting the girls into Catholic school, but decided against it. We were married in the Church.

Anyhoo - we never missed Sunday Mass as kids, unless we were seriously ill. I vaguely recall that even in our yearly camping trip in the Rockies, Mum found a church for us to attend. My family is dysfunctional as most families are. I have had to undo a few things as an adult. It's a mixed bag - what I learned. Sacrifice, justice, compassion, patriotism, respect, forgiveness, fairness. Some were learned to a fault: sacrifice and forgiveness to name two. I also learned the 'proper' place for a lady. Those had to be re-worked as an adult.

I loved school when I was little, mostly. Most memories are are happy. One that isn't is a 1st grade memory: A classmate who sat 2 desks in front of me raised his hand to request permission to go to the bathroom and was denied. Twice more he raised his hand and was denied. The next thing I remember, a puddle of urine appeared under his desk. He got into trouble for that. I remember thinking how unjust that was. Some of what I learned at home was reinforced such as 'sit down and shut up'. I've completely done away with that one! LOL.

Looking back, I note a change. It's little things. It was, probably, 5th grade. I would have been 10 - so 1973. First, sex education, which we had to have permission to participate in. The girls and boys were separated, and the changes that an adolescent goes through were presented. It was clinical. That's it, and I have to say that I'm glad I got that information because I don't think my mother would have been able to give it to me. My older sisters were pretty befuddled over all of the changes they had gone through years before. There are 2 more things that I recall from that year: A 'Save the Whales' movie and assembly about environmentalism. A horrid movie showing bloody car crashes and pushing the use of seat belts. Later on, the Pledge of Allegiance became optional. It was always said over the loudspeaker - you just weren't required to stand for it anymore. There was an American flag in every classroom. The teachers didn't take any crap from anyone in the lower grades.
There was always an adult present - ALWAYS. Until High School.

High school was an open campus, and in 10th grade I would hang on the loading dock and smoke with the bad boys for most of my classes. Or sleep late and schlep into school whenever I wanted. They passed me right through 10th grade, even though I hadn't done a damn thing. Nobody really seemed to care. That was '77 or '78 I think.

I believe that my early years in school were good. I was literate, ended up loving Algebra but hating Geometry, liked Latin. (There were 2 choices of language in the school at the time: French or Latin. I was completely turned off by French - I didn't like the French at all. I wonder where I learned that??!) Although my education was adequate, I have realized that it could have been so much better. Teaching my daughters has been a HUGE eye-opener. The longer I do it the more disappointed I am in my own education.

Most of what I have learned about life and how to operate as a grown up happened after I was done with school. I have noticed that the young people, in high school or in their first years of college, who I have contact with are completely socially inept. There are a few exceptions - a very few. The same was true for me at that age. I was a fish out of water when I got out of school. I went straight into the Army from school - and I had a bit of sense by the time I got out. I was a democrat back then, but as I've gotten older I have returned to the values that I was raised with. It's been a long revolution right back to where I started. God, Family, Freedom, Strength, Human Rights, Humility, Honesty, Justice, Courage of Conviction.

I do believe that most of those values were shared by all in my younger grades. The teachers and the other students had those same values. High school was a complete wash, though. A total waste of time.


Blogger Always On Watch said...

My educational experience was completely different--private education, K-12. No slacking allowed. Zero!

At the time, I whined a lot about the academic rigors. But during my freshman year in college, I was so glad that my parents were able to afford sending me to a private school. College was a cakewalk for me! And I even graduated at the top of my class--the very top. Of course, had it not been for the excellent foundation I got--again, thanks to my parents (My mother designed the curriculum of the school I attended)--I'd never have achieved those marks in college.

Grizzly Mama, stick with that homeschooling. Had homeschooling been allowed when I was a youngster, my mother would have opted for it.

28 April, 2007 22:42  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I'm 39. I was a military brat, so I went to a number of schools all over the country, growing up. I am not sure how much I was deprived, and how much I was blessed by a good teacher and curriculum here or there. I have a pretty outstanding memory; but many things are starting to fade from the fore, as I just don't "review" them in my head.

In some cases, I am surprised at how I was able to "get through the system", without a full understanding of certain things. I got the grade, but intellectually, really didn't understand. I suppose memorizing data can make one appear to know more than one actually does.

Even looking back to college, I feel like I went through it half asleep. And for that, I blame myself more than my school's inadequacies.

I think I've been slow at growing up. Many people seem to mature very quickly. I think when I hit 18, I wasn't ready to be an adult, yet. But in society, one size sometimes is meant to fit all, and so we're made to move at society's pace, and not our own.

I don't know if that made any sense.

28 April, 2007 22:59  
Blogger tshsmom said...

Yeah, high school in the 70s was a waste of time. I think that's when things started sliding downhill.
I was appalled when I used to visit my son's elementary school while class was in session! Kids were running around EVERYWHERE! When I got to my son's classroom, conditions weren't any better. It was CHAOS!! There were maybe 5 kids that were working at their desks. The rest were roaming around the room talking, and pestering the other kids.
No wonder my ADD kid had trouble concentrating in this environment. Way too many distractions!!
Z's 4th grade teacher was old school(sit down, shut up, and LISTEN). He did very well that year!

29 April, 2007 08:34  
Blogger Dionne said...

You make some great points here and I had a somewhat similar experience. I went to public school all the way through, K-12th grade. When I went to a Christian college it was such a refreshing change for me.

Like you my elementary school years weren't bad although some of those were spent in the south. By Junior High and Highschool I was in Wisconsin in a very liberal & non-Christian environment. I was constantly at odds morally with most of the students and even some of the teachers. Even though I was apathetic towards politics at the time I vaguely remember my Economics teacher bashing Reagan.

When my husband and I first got married we were determined that our kids would go to public school to be a witness to other kids. It didn't take long for me to see that I didn't want my kids to become a victim of the public school system. That has only been reinforced the longer I homeschool.

29 April, 2007 16:35  
Blogger Sprittibee said...

Sounds just about like it was for me. Only... I got hooked on drugs and skipped a lot more school than you did. ;)

29 April, 2007 18:05  
Blogger tweetey30 said...

Wow. I am amazed at your life Monica. I love reading your blog. The more I think about the more home schooling looks better for us in a few years anyway. But that is after J gets his degree if he even goes back. That was our topic of conversation this weekend.

Another thing is that I was raised believing there is no god Monica so when I do post about my recent experiences with God I dont know what I am really saying and doing. I am 30 years old and just figuring this out on my own with my husband and girls.

I could tell you what happened last night but I wont. It was so awsome though. I dont have your e-mail. When you get a second could you just e-mail me and I will get back to you. Tweets.

30 April, 2007 14:17  
Blogger Abouna said...

Grizzly Mama: Wait til you see my posting for Tuesday. I got some more info on far down are public schools are headed. Thre is even a link to watch some shocking but true videos of what is going on.

30 April, 2007 22:11  
Blogger Sherry said...

I knew I had had the wool pulled over my eyes about my education not too far into my first semester at university. Geez, I was gonna actually have to study in college!

I am thrilled to continue my education, trying to catch up and fill in the gaps while teaching my own children. It's been a hard and fun journey.


01 May, 2007 21:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cubed here.


You did good, real good! Just remember, Leonardo da Vinci was the 8th child, so you're just one step behind him!

I started out in Alexandria, Virginia, in a Catholic school (K-1) and remember it in amazing detail. Sister Teresa (K) was wonderful; I absolutely loved her. Sister "X" (can't remember her name - I must have repressed it; she hated me, and I wasn't crazy about her!) wasn't; our strained relationship notwithstanding, I liked school, but my mother, a strayed Congregationalist (as a religion, this is a first cousin to a Calvinist Puritan), got pissed off when she sent me to school with a chicken sandwich one Friday and they asked her not to do that any more. The straw that broke the camel's back was when they insisted that she and my dad (a strayed Catholic - he and my mother had eloped, and had a civil ceremony) be married in the Church; they were, and I was a witness and baptized at the same time (having already been baptized a Congregationalist!), but before long, my mother got pissed off at that too, and that was the end of my Catholic education.

On to a public school, and then the following year to an Episcopal school (my mother didn't like any of them). Then my dad (career Navy recently back from the Pacific Theater) got orders to Hawaii; public school, then Kamehameha (private - shoes not allowed, too noisy), then to Seattle and first to John Muir, a public school, then over to Helen Bush (private girls' school then, co-ed now), then off to London and a small American-run private school, then to a Swiss girls' boarding school, then back to London to a DoD school, then back to Alexandria to the same Episcopal school (St. Agnes) I had attended earlier; some of the seniors remembered me from the third grade! I did not remember them...). Then on to college, then my Montessori teaching certificate, then on to med school, residency and a couple of fellowships and here I am!

Through all that, I did OK; a "pivot point" happened when I was sixteen. I was sitting there one day and wondered why, since learning was so much fun, why was school, with the exception of a few fleeting moments here and there, such a DRAG, since learning was presumably the whole point!

That was the beginning of my interest in the whys and wherefores of education; even my medical practice was a cobbled-together specialty in the medical problems leading to learning problems in kids; nowadays, there is a specialty called "developmental pediatrics," but then, in the '60s, there was no such thing, so we had to make it up as we went along. I did a year in pediatric genetics, endocrinology and metabolism; a year in general pediatrics; a year in pediatric neurology and neuropathology and a year in child psychiatry. I couldn't seem to shake my interest in the learning thing!

I think it was my father who was more responsible than anyone for teaching, primarily by example, principles of fairness, kindness, generosity, integrity, honesty and encouraging me to do the best I could in whatever I chose to do, and to follow my passions. He had some seriously unreasonable prejudices left over from his own upbringing, but I never knew about them until I was an adult myself; he had always kept them from me, knowing that (since he was my hero) as a small child I would probably take them seriously if I knew, and he knew down deep that he was wrong about them. To me, that is an amazing achievement.

The schools themselves - all of them, the good as well as the not-so-good - served as grist for the mill to help me answer the question I had asked myself when I was sixteen, and I'm still working on it.

My husband, also a physician (I first met him in undergraduate school, where he was one of my chemistry lab assistants; then we ended up at the same medical school, where we were married), was selected for the Navy under the Berry Plan during the Vietnam war. He eventually decided to make the Navy his career, and so there we went again!

Our girls both went from K-1 to a Montessori school, and then went to various public, private, and religious schools from Florida to Guam, and had pretty much the same experience as I did. They turned out OK - my eldest works at Microsoft, and the youngest has an advanced degree in molecular cell biology.

They tell me that they learned all their values from their dad and me, which makes us very proud; we were unhappy with the values they were being taught in most of their schools even then, and took an active role in letting them know what ours were, and why we held them.

They are fine young women, and the fact that they think our values were the ones they wanted to adopt makes us very proud.

They both have their own children now, and they both put their own influence on their kids at the top of their list of important things to do, including getting them the best education they can. Both of them are in a mild-to-moderate panic state over what they see in the schools now, especially here in Seattle, which is a ferociously collectivist, anti-American environment. For the time being, the two oldest are in a Montessori school; the youngest are still babies.

None of us are religious; we have a firm moral code, the core value of which is: human life as appropriate to the nature of a human being. That which tends to promote human life is good, while that which tends to threaten it is bad. There's a lot more to it, but you catch the drift. It has served us well, helping us to judge things accurately for better or for worse, and there's plenty of both to go around.

Studies have shown that as the influence of schools has grown and taken over more and more child care functions, the agenda of the politicians running schools has all but replaced the views of the parents as the most important ones in the kids' lives.

This is a huge problem, and it's one of the several reasons I think a private (especially, right now, a home schooling) system of education is so critically important to our future as individuals and as a culture.

It's very interesting too, to note that the single most important thing listed by the overwhelming majority of parents, regardless of ethnic group or socioeconomic level re: the education of their kids, is academic excellence! This even includes religion for most parents; when asked to choose between a school with decent academic standards that taught their religious beliefs vs. a school with superb academic standards that taught no religion at all, the overwhelming majority take the excellent academic standard; apparently, parents are quite confident that between themselves and their religious communities, they are up to the task of instilling their religious views in their own children.

Sorry for ranting; I told you it was my "button!"

02 May, 2007 11:54  
Blogger Dee said...

GrizzlyMama, wow, that's quite a story, especially about the boy who wasn't allowed to go to the bathroom. Things were pretty tough back then for kids but now they're tough in a different way. Kids are more and more being expected to conform to the thinking that is pervading their education or be 'punished' in different ways. I admire your decision and the decision of many American parents to homeschool. My best friend in the States homeschooled her three children and they've turned out to be outstanding citizens in every way! God bless you.

03 May, 2007 01:46  
Blogger Kate said...

"Teaching my daughters has been a HUGE eye-opener. The longer I do it the more disappointed I am in my own education."

I feel the SAME way. I supposedly went to one of the top three county public school systems for middle and high school (Fairfax Co). I can tell you I didn't learn half as much as what my kids are learning now. What a HUGE eye opener it has been indeed.
I loved reading about your school memories - as bitter sweet as they can be. God bless you!

04 May, 2007 00:54  
Blogger Abouna said...

Grizzly Mama: I am assuming that I am a bit older as I graduated high school in 1964: That being said, most of the changes in our public schools that you mention in your post, actually had their start about 1963, but weren't realized until 1965 on. It began with the removal of prayer from the public schools, which was followed by the bloody assassination of President Kennedy. Then high school kids (at my high school) running around waving English translations of Mao Tse Tung's "Little Red Book", spouting communist slogans.

It appears that right after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, America took a sharp left turn and began a downward slide morally that has picked up speed with each succeeding generation.

05 May, 2007 14:42  
Blogger Mike's America said...

I went to public school k-12. It wasn't bad as far as it went.

Mostly though it was unchallenging. It's tough to be one of the smarter kids in class where a teacher has to aim her lessons at the average student.

05 May, 2007 17:55  
Blogger Grizzly Mama said...

AOW - My kids whine about how tough it is, too. LOL. They've got it easy - I tell 'em. I just remind them of wakeup time if they were in school - and also they hear horror stories from the neighborhood kids about what goes on in that building. Thanks always for your support, AOW.

Wordsmith - of course it made sense! You have a way with words and I completely understood you. Homeschooling my kids has allowed me to brush up on the rusty parts, learn many things that had NEVER been taught to me, and clear up concepts that had always been unclear. As for socialization and knowing how to act like a grownup - well - I just don't think that the 'brick and mortars' do the deal. It's something that's learned from the adults in a person's life. For publics, that wouldn't be the parents that the kids are spending the majority of their time with.

Thats awful, Tshsmom. I've heard similar stories from parents and grandparents who visited the local elementary school while in session. It's totally out of control there. Totally.

LMC - yes I've heard that from homeschoolers - the 'salt and light' thing. It doesn't take long to understand that the little ones are still quite vulnerable. Especially when they're really little. Our decision to homeschool has been reinforced over and over again these past 6 years.

Sprittibee - I think that you and I are more alike than you can imagine. I'd wager that I skipped more school than you. LOL. I also got into drugs pretty early on - the only benefit to THAT was that I stopped doing them early on. (compared to many of my classmates...)

Tweetey - thanks and I am glad that you started coming to visit. You and your husband are fine, you have the best guidance ever in your personal relationship with God. I will email you tonight!

Father Abouna - I think I must have been lucky atleast in my earliest education experience. The changes possibly hadn't been fully realized. As to JFK, Troll believes that it was LBJ who pushed this country toward the left. From what he has said it makes sense to me. LBJ did a lot of damage.

Redbud - thank you and I agree. Totally the same for me. It is work to homeschool BUT! It is also a joy. I hadn't counted on the joy part of it - that was a total surprise!

Cubed I have learned so much from you - thank you! You had quite a childhood. Interesting that my parents also harbored some prejudices and I also did not know about them until I was an adult. Troll and I are Christian, just not very good ones. The primary reason that we chose homeschooling was academic excellence. Honey - you can come here and rant any time you want! ;-)

Thank you for visiting Dee. Loved your blog - I'll have to make a space on the sidebar for the Aussies and put you there! Every homeschooled kid I know - well. They're very open, kind, amiable, able to carry on a conversation with any person of any age.

Kate - good to see you again! It's amazing to me that education can actually be enjoyable and informative. lol.

Mike - the cookie cutter method only works for a select few. Most students excel in some areas and struggle in others. Public schools cannot accomodate differences easily or well. It's one of the many pluses of teaching your own children. Parents know their own children better than anyone. The vast majority of parents want what's best for their children.

06 May, 2007 01:17  
Blogger Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

Lately I've been thinking about homeschooling way more than ever before. I'm just so fed up with bullying in schools, that nobody seems to do anything about. THey all say "zero tolerance" to bullying, but in the end nothing gets done about it.

There is nothing wrong with elemenary school, as you say, but it's highschool that I'm scared of. You made a lot of valid points here.

06 May, 2007 11:17  
Blogger Grizzly Mama said...

Vancouver Mermaid - dontcha just love that 'zero tolerance' crap? What it seems to boil down to is that the person being bullied has no right to defend themselves. It's almost like they protect the abuser. I also love the 'zero tolerance' applied to the kids who bring the plastic p-nut butter spreaders and aspirin. It's crazy.

My elementary school experience was quite good (but the limitations are becoming apparent) but the local public elementary school in this day and age is nothing like that. It's bad here - real bad. That includes the elementary schools. I encourage you to homeschool if you can - check out the Home School Legal Defense link on the sidebar. There is information there about homeschooling in your country.

When you homeschool, your kids see a completely different side of you that they will NEVER see as kids if they are in a traditional school setting. You are the teacher, you know so much and if you don't know something you discover it together. You set the tone and provide the example of what learning something new is all about. It's exciting and fun and interesting. I wish you good luck! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

Thank you ALL for your comments!

06 May, 2007 12:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cubed here.

Vancouver mermaid/Montreal photographer said...

"Lately I've been thinking about homeschooling way more than ever before. I'm just so fed up with bullying in schools..."

Oh, YEAH! Right on, VM/MP! That's one of the most grievous faults of schools today. A lot of people brush the bullying problem aside, saying, "Well, they have to learn how to deal with problems like that somehow," when all it really does is teach them that it's OK to violate someone's rights and that true justice will not be served!

The bullying problem is morally obscene!

06 May, 2007 14:37  
Blogger Hanley Family said...

I don't know why the link back thingy didn't work, but I think I must just be weird. I experienced a lot of the same things as you and a lot of other commenters in school. Most of it was a waste of time, and I had a series of minor conflicts with various teachers. Maybe it was because I was in the gifted and talented program that it was handled differently. I don't know.

Anyway, I do believe it was due largely to my high school experience that I ended up Christian and conservative. It was my own rebelliousness against a system that made no sense to me.

07 May, 2007 03:44  
Blogger Hanley Family said...

btw, Grizzly Mama, there is no such thing as a good Christian. : )

I did more "bad" stuff after converting...like my first sampling of drugs. And did I really drink that much? When I went back to Germany, everyone I visited greeted me with a bottle of Kibra Kirsch (cherry schnaps). I had a reputation, I tell you. Yikes...Actually, I guess that drinking was before converting. But it was legal. It wasn't so legal when I returned to the US and converted.

The fact that an 18 year old probably shouldn't be wandering around JFK International with alcohol in her suitcase never occurred to me until I went to pick up my bags. All of a sudden, I was terrified of going through customs.

That's probably enough confession for one entry!

07 May, 2007 03:51  
Blogger Grizzly Mama said...

LOL Dana. Oh girl. War stories. I've got a few and really I shouldn't even be alive. It's a miracle I tell ya. Dang - it's kind of scary raising kids thinking about that stuff, especially girls!

07 May, 2007 23:58  
Blogger Grizzly Mama said...

Oh - and about your rebelliousness and it leading you to Christianity. It reminds me of something that Cubed said awhile ago - it's so hazy and I think it was Cubed in one of her most excellent essays. She was speaking about the indoctrination that moslem children are subjected to - and how that kind of stuff will just NOT work on certain kinds of people. There's a certain percentage of the population that just doesn't cotton to that kind of stuff. It's a good thing, I'm thinking.

08 May, 2007 00:02  
Blogger Hanley Family said...

Ha! Actually, I think it happens more often than we think. Europe seems to be having a more difficult time with their Muslem population and I truly believe it is because 1) they more actively try to enforce socialization on these groups and 2) their social system holds allows them to remain separate. So while the state is trying to force conformity, they sense their identity under fire and react with fundamentalism.

Regarding teenagers and school and rebellion, I thought you might be interested in this article. I just blogged about it, but you should read the whole thing. It is nice to read research that confirms what you know to be true, even if you can't formalize it into language.

08 May, 2007 00:30  
Blogger Grizzly Mama said...

Loved that article Dana - thanks for the link. Very interesting.

I have heard veteran homeschoolers relate their experiences with their teens, all have said that the 'adolescent rebellion' thingy just didn't happen. The kids matured into adults quite seamlessly.

08 May, 2007 01:26  

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